The 2020 regular season is scheduled to begin in late July, which means it’s finally time to talk some baseball! To prepare you for the season, Phillies Nation will be taking an in-depth look at all of your favorite players. Here’s a review of Héctor Neris’ 2019 season as well as what to expect from the closer in 2020.
While the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen does have some uncertainty going into the abbreviated 2020 season, there is no question about who will be closing out games.
Manager Joe Girardi has already indicated that Héctor Neris will serve as the Phillies closer this upcoming season. Neris, now the longest-tenured player on the club, will serve as an anchor for this team’s relief core. His unique arsenal can be a true weapon for the Phillies, and they will need it to be effective if they wish to contend in 2020.
2019 Stats: 68 G, 67 2/3 IP, 28 SV, 2.93 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.020 WHIP, 1.3 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 11.8 K/9, 1.0 fWAR
Neris was a super dependable option for the Phillies in 2019. Injuries to Seranthony Domínguez and David Robertson early in the season pushed Neris to the closer’s role, and he fully took advantage of the opportunity. He led all Phillies relievers in appearances, innings pitched, saves and strikeouts.
The second half of last season was where Neris really shined. He continued to be a force in the back-end of the Phillies bullpen as the team’s chances at making the postseason slowly dwindled. As noted by Phillies Nation‘s own Jonny Heller, Neris had an ERA of 1.00 in his final 27 appearances of the season. He pitched like one of the league’s best relievers down the stretch.
Neris’ two-pitch repertoire was the key to his success. First and foremost comes his bread and butter — the splitter. Neris threw his splitter a whopping 65.4 percent of the time in 2019 according to Statcast. Even when hitters know it’s coming, the pitch’s downward action makes it extremely tough to hit. The closer also possesses a sneakily good fastball that he can blow by hitters when they are not expecting it.
By increasing the use of his splitter last season, Neris was able to play to his biggest strength, while also making his fastball more difficult to adjust to. It seems that this particular pitch usage may be the winning formula for Neris as a pitcher. It definitely helped him in 2019 and will most likely do so going forward as well.
Neris will be the Phillies’ closer and the reliever that they hand the ball to most. The 30-year-old will be one of the most important pieces of the bullpen this season, and the team will need him to be just as good as he was last year.
It looks like the steps forward that Neris took in 2019 will not just be temporary ones. He has the stuff to be a high-caliber reliever, and he was able to properly utilize that stuff last season. Neris should be able to do that once again in this upcoming season for the Phillies.
If he can continue building upon his strong 2019 campaign, there should be a lot of strikeouts and saves in the near future for Neris. He is very capable of continuing to be a reliable closer this season.
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